A Workers’ School: The Educational Experience of the MST in Brazil

Published

CÉLIA REGINA VENDRAMINI

TRANSLATED FROM PORTUGUESE BY SÓNIA VAZ BORGES

Internationally known for its land struggles, the Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST) in Brazil also gave a central role to education. By approaching some of the struggles that the movement face, namely land, agrarian reform, and social change, Célia Regina Vendramini shows us how education links these struggles, transforming the movement as an educational praxis. 

Vendramini Funambulist 1
Temporary school created during a MST march. / Photo by Paulo Pinto late 1990s, MST Education.

Since its origin, the Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST) includes school as a field of struggle. Being one of the organized social movements that is most concerned with educational issues, the MST understands that the whole family participates in the struggle for land, and this includes children and young people. Moreover, the education of the rural population has always occupied a secondary place and is marginalized in the Brazilian educational system, with low schooling and the presence of non-literate people (today estimated at 11 millions, equivalent to 6.6% of the population over 15 years old; in the rural areas 15.8%). The existing programs for rural education were also ready-made and uniform models, aiming more at moralization, civilization, and hygienization, than education and access to knowledge. Thus, the educational issue enters the agenda of the MST, which aims at building access to schooling for the landless. But, fundamentally, this access to education is articulated with the social and cultural context, and with the history of struggles in the countryside.